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Nigerian Governor Faces Probes in Nigeria, Britain

  • Gabi Menezes

The governor of the Plateau State in central Nigeria, whose trial recently resumed on money-laundering charges, may also be tried in Britain on similar charges.

Scotland Yard officers arrived in Nigeria this week to testify against officials linked with the disappearance of millions of dollars from the coffers of Plateau State in Central Nigeria.

Governor Joshua Dariye was initially not charged because a Nigerian judge ruled that he was immune from prosecution as an elected state governor. But Nigeria's attorney general, Akinlolu Olujinmi, resumed a separate case in a federal high court.

Scotland Yard says that Mr. Dariye may also face charges in London for laundering several-million dollars from the state treasury to British bank accounts.

Seven other Nigerians are being investigated in a related corruption case and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

A Lagos-based analyst with the anti-corruption watchdog group Transparency International, Rome Williams, who has been closely following the case, says he believes Nigerians should try their own officials, but welcomes cooperation from the British police.

"All they are doing is very important. Of course if you have laundered money across a particular country, those who have assisted in the investigation must come and testify to say 'Yes, this money is in our bank , and the sources are from this individual.' So we need them. So Scotland Yard is coming to Nigeria to come and testify is proper. Very, very proper and very useful to us," he said.

But Mr. Williams says he is concerned that Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo may be persecuting the governor, following sectarian clashes that killed hundreds in his state last year. Mr. Obasanjo has been pressuring the judicial system and police to aggressively pursue the case. He has also called for the governor's impeachment.

"Why is the president so particular about Dariye? There are so many other cases that we have had before and everything has died down. And [thirdly] if the British people themselves are so serious for God's sake let them do something for us. Publish the names of everybody including the president […] of how much money they have in British banks," added Mr. Williams.

President Obasanjo suspended Mr. Dariye from office for six months ending in November after the federal government said he did not do enough to control the state clashes.

President Obasanjo has launched an anti-corruption campaign since returning to power in 1999, but no major convictions have been secured and some of his critics say only his political opponents are being targeted by probes.

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